Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Study fundamentally alters our understanding of lung growth

Date:
December 14, 2011
Source:
University of Leicester
Summary:
A ground-breaking international study into the ways lungs grow and develop has challenged existing medical understanding that our lungs are completely formed by the age of three.

Illustration of a helium molecule bouncing off alveolar walls.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Leicester

A ground-breaking international study into the ways lungs grow and develop has challenged existing medical understanding that our lungs are completely formed by the age of three.

Related Articles


The researchers, led by a team at the University of Leicester, put forward a theory for the first time based on research evidence that new air sacs, called alveoli, are constantly being formed. This contradicts information in most medical textbooks that explain that the tiny air sacs begin to develop before birth (around the 6th month of pregnancy) and continue to increase in number until the age of about 3 years.

Dr. Manjith Narayanan, one of the leaders of the study from the University of Leicester, said: "It was believed that there was no further increase in the number of alveoli beyond that age, and that the existing alveoli just expanded as the lungs grew bigger until final adult size was reached."

"Our study has challenged this by suggesting that new alveoli continue to be formed as the lungs grow."

The study, published online ahead of print in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, was a collaboration between researchers in the Department of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation, University of Leicester, the Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Nottingham, and the University of Bern.

The researchers studied over 100 healthy volunteers aged between 7 and 21 years. Each volunteer had a range of breathing tests in Leicester, and was then accompanied to Nottingham for a special magnetic resonance (MR) scan, during which they breathed in hyperpolarised helium and held their breaths.

Dr. Narayanan, a Clinical Research Fellow, explains: "The helium is hyperpolarised, which means that the molecules all line up in one direction and it then behaves like a magnetised gas. Within the scanner, we can measure how the magnetism decays, and this in turn depends on the size of the air sacs -- alveoli -- which contain the helium. The technique is safe and not painful or uncomfortable in any way."

Senior Lecturer at Leicester Dr. Caroline Beardsmore describes the study: "We studied small children, whose lungs contain approximately one litre of air, and full-grown adults with lung volumes of around four litres. We found very little difference in the size of the alveoli across everyone we studied. If the size of the alveoli are hardly changing, this can only mean one thing -- as our lungs increase in size, we must be growing new alveoli."

Professor Mike Silverman, Emeritus Professor of Child Health at Leicester, adds: "This research has important implications. If we can continue to develop new alveoli beyond early childhood, going on through adolescence, there is the potential for lung repair following injury that was never realised before. Conversely, external factors (possibly including inhaled pollution) could have a negative impact on lung development. We now have the basis for looking at many factors with the potential to impact on lung health in the future."

This study was funded by The Wellcome Trust.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Leicester. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. M. Narayanan, J. Owers-Bradley, C. S. Beardsmore, M. Mada, I. Ball, R. Garipov, K. S. Panesar, C. E. Kuehni, B. D. Spycher, S. E. Williams, M. Silverman. Alveolarization Continues During Childhood and Adolescence: New Evidence from 3He Magnetic Resonance. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 2011; DOI: 10.1164/rccm.201107-1348OC

Cite This Page:

University of Leicester. "Study fundamentally alters our understanding of lung growth." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 December 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111206082602.htm>.
University of Leicester. (2011, December 14). Study fundamentally alters our understanding of lung growth. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111206082602.htm
University of Leicester. "Study fundamentally alters our understanding of lung growth." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111206082602.htm (accessed December 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Best Tips to Curb Holiday Carbs

The Best Tips to Curb Holiday Carbs

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) It's hard to resist those delicious but fattening carbs we all crave during the winter months, but there are some ways to stay satisfied without consuming the extra calories. Vanessa Freeman (@VanessaFreeTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sierra Leone Bikers Spread the Message to Fight Ebola

Sierra Leone Bikers Spread the Message to Fight Ebola

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) More than 100 motorcyclists hit the road to spread awareness messages about Ebola. Nearly 7,000 people have now died from the virus, almost all of them in west Africa, according to the World Health Organization. Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Protein-Filled Foods to Energize You for the New Year

The Best Protein-Filled Foods to Energize You for the New Year

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) The new year is coming and nothing will energize you more for 2015 than protein-filled foods. Fitness and nutrition expert John Basedow (@JohnBasedow) gives his favorite high protein foods that will help you build muscle, lose fat and have endless energy. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins